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Archive for the ‘Law and justice’ Category

img_0032At the City Council meeting on February 7, Council member Mike Scott will introduce a resolution and ordinance designed to minimize the use of island policing resources to do the job of federal immigration authorities. Somewhat misleadingly known as “sanctuary city” laws (more accurately termed, “community policing laws,”) these kinds of policies have been adopted around the country, either formally or informally.

Contrary to some misunderstandings about what these laws are, they do not provide undocumented immigrants a place to hide from federal immigration authorities. Instead, they provide that local police will not use local resources to do the work of federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws, absent a court order or, in some jurisdictions, under very limited circumstances having to do with previous immigration violations and the commission of a serious violent felony. Absent those specified circumstances, police will not inquire about a person’s immigration status, or detain a person longer than they have legal authority to do. In the past and in some jurisdictions now, local law enforcement detains noncitizens longer than they would otherwise be allowed to do, in order to give Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the time to investigate the person’s immigration status. Some courts have held that so-called “ICE detainers” are unconstitutional, and many jurisdictions, including the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department, now decline to hold noncitizens under those detainers.

There are over 326 counties, 32 cities, and four states that limit local law enforcement’s involvement in federal immigration enforcement. Police departments tend to support these community policing laws. As Tom Manger, Chief of Police for Montgomery County and President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, has said, “To do our job we must have the trust and respect of the communities we serve. We fail if the public fears their police and will not come forward when we need them. Whether we seek to stop child predators, drug dealers, rapists or robbers—we need the full cooperation of victims and witness. Cooperation is not forthcoming from persons who see their police as immigration agents. When immigrants come to view their local police and sheriffs with distrust because they fear deportation, it creates conditions that encourage criminals to prey upon victims and witnesses alike.”

On January 25, the president of the United States signed an Executive Order (EO), directing local jurisdictions to assist with federal immigration orders, regardless of local ordinance or policy. The EO provides that jurisdictions that don’t comply will lose federal funding. This EO has been the subject of widespread condemnation by immigrant and human rights advocacy groups, as well as mayors, governors, ordinary citizens. Seattle mayor Ed Murray called the day the EO was signed the “darkest day in immigration history” since the Japanese internment and said he’s prepared to lose “every penny” of Seattle’s federal funding, which was about $85 million in 2015. Governor Jay Inslee called the EO “mean-spirited, unnecessary and contrary to our values as Americans.” (more…)

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By Kelly Vomacka

*Editor’s note: The author is a lawyer who has provided volunteer assistance to the Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center (KIAC) in Bremerton, among other nonprofits. Her story was provided to me by KIAC’s Immigration Legal Services. Her experiences occurred during President Obama’s time in office. He deported over 2.5 million people, more than any president in history, continuing the upward trend in deportations since the 1980’s.  Incoming president Donald Trump has made mass deportation one of his signature issues, promising to deport as many as 11 million people. This article details the process as it is today; if deportations increase, the system’s ability to respond will undoubtedly deteriorate, and the way human beings are treated–including many children— will become inestimably worse.

A couple of years ago, I volunteered at a weekend workshop for immigrant “Dreamers”—those people you’ve heard about in the news who were illegally brought to the US as infants and are now in their 20s. I enjoyed the workshop so much that by the time I left I wanted to practice immigration law. I loved hearing the Spanish, seeing the amazing young people, helping immigrants achieve the American Dream. Most of my legal experience was in criminal law, and seeing a young adult with no convictions and straight A’s did my heart good.

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Detainees inside the women’s wing of the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. (Photo by Alex Stonehill)

So off to Immigration Land I went. A friend of a friend helped me get started, throwing me various bits of contract work and showing me the ropes. Suddenly, there I was, going to court, writing appeals, the works. And what I quickly discovered is that one does not dabble in immigration law. It’s fantastically complex, and trying to peer at the hairs they split could make you go blind. Plus, if you lose, your client doesn’t go to prison, they go to a country where they are pretty likely to die. As in: die. Be dead.

So I chickened out and came back to criminal law. But along the way I met enough immigration lawyers that I started doing some post-conviction relief work for their clients, and I volunteered for a couple of pro bono immigration cases.

Even this tiny bit of immigration “experience” sets me apart from the average criminal attorney, for whom immigration law is a mysterious black box and all they know is “talk to Washington Defender Association.” That’s all I know, too, but I’ve visited Immigration Land just enough to have a few postcards to share from my travels. I think of myself as a tourist who went to Europe and saw 9 countries in 10 days. Here’s what I’ve learned.

I love the Constitution

Seriously, love it. Have you ever wondered what criminal law would look like without it? Okay, I know, you see that every single day. So do I. But really, what if it wasn’t there? What if the accused had no right to counsel, no speedy trial, no jury, none of it? Okay, a few shreds of Due Process for decency’s sake, but that’s all.

There’s no Constitution in immigration law. Not much of one anyway. The Constitution does not apply to borders, and, thanks to our old friend the Legal Fiction, much of immigration law is considered to be “at” the border. Clients have no right to a lawyer, since immigration law is “merely” civil. I have sat in court and watched person after person, with no legal training, no English, and no interpreter, try to defend themselves against deportation. I’ve seen a judge prevent an interpreter from interpreting, even though the interpreter was sitting right there. I’ve seen continuances that go years into the future, once because the interpreter didn’t show up, a few times because the judge was out sick. I’ve seen people locked up without bond who have committed no crime at all.

I’ve seen people locked up on obviously unconstitutional searches and seizures. Yes, I wish the criminal courts would follow the Constitution more closely, but boy oh boy am I glad it’s around at all.

The detention center is a hole

The Northwest Detention Center is the worst jail I’ve ever seen, hands down. It sits out on the Tacoma Tideflats, over a Superfund site. It is surrounded by concertina wire. There is no bus service. The only parking is for staff and government lawyers. There are no coffee or sandwich shops nearby. It is privately run by a national prison corporation, and Congress has mandated a quota of inmates. You read that right: The detention center is required, by law, to fill a certain number of beds each night.

The front door greets you with numerous signs telling you what illnesses you may contract if you go inside. The architecture is Late Brutalist, constructed of whitewashed concrete blocks. Despair oozes from the walls. Everything about the place says “Danger. Keep out.”

But you enter anyway, because you need to get to the courtroom inside. You go through security screening, which is similar to jail screening. Then you are buzzed through a heavy locked door into a dismal waiting area that compares unfavorably to the airport. You make pleasant small talk with the guard to charm your way through the next locked door, into a narrow hallway lined with benches. On those benches are potential deportees, color-coded jail garb, at various levels of misery. Finally you are admitted through the third locked door into the courtroom. I should mention, if it’s not obvious, that the courtroom is open to the public.

I should also mention that plenty of people housed there have legal status in the US. Many of them are Legal Permanent Residents, and notice that first word there is “legal.” Not all, not most, but many.

There’s also a court in Seattle. I can’t call it a courthouse. It’s a suite in an office building downtown. No locked doors, but same screening, same dismal waiting area.

All of the courtrooms are beautiful, with churchy pews for the audience, a wooden railing with a proper gate, big gleaming counsel tables, comfortable chairs, and top notch electronics. The courtrooms are painted in a rich teal that exudes both power and calm. The “judges” wear robes (more on the air quotes in a minute), and the staff operates with hushed efficiency.

It’s not a real court

They hate it when you say this, but it’s true. Immigration courts are administrative bodies, not courts. The judges answer to the Attorney General, and ultimately to the president. They are employees of the executive branch of government, and if they stray from government policy, they are punished. They have no judicial independence whatsoever.

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Press release from the City of Bainbridge Island today:

Consumer Fireworks Will Not be Permitted on Bainbridge Island

Bainbridge Island, Wash., (June, 2015) The Bainbridge Island Fire Department, with the support of the City of Bainbridge Island and the Bainbridge Island Police Department, announced today that consumer fireworks will not be permitted this Fourth of July.

The ban is due to the regions tinder-dry conditions, and concern that current conditions combined with hot and dry weather in the forecast make the island extremely susceptible to wildfires. At this time the community Grand Old Fourth firework show is scheduled to proceed.

In addition to being liable for any property damage that would result from an errant firework, those that choose to discharge fireworks in spite of the ban could be cited with a civil infraction and subject to a monetary penalty and default amount of $500 plus statutory assessments. A second violation would constitute a misdemeanor and could carry a fine up to $1000, or imprisonment in jail for a term not exceeding 90 days.

City Manager Doug Schulze emphasized the importance of the ban as a precautionary measure during this extremely dry fire season, “The City fully supports the Bainbridge Island Fire Department’s institution of the ban on fireworks for this season, and encourages Bainbridge Island residents to do their part to protect our island environment and public and private property by complying with the ban, and choosing to enjoy the public fireworks display instead.”

According to the Bainbridge Island Municipal Code Chapter 8.28, the Bainbridge Island Fire Department is authorized during periods of extreme fire danger to prohibit all fireworks. For more information on the ban, please contact Bainbridge Island Fire Department Chief Hank Teran at 206.842.7686. To report the discharge of fireworks, please call 911.

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imagesUpdated at the end of the post:

Denise Garcia, the tireless and awesome Bainbridge ambassador to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense-WA, sent a note this morning about last night’s city council action on a resolution to support I-594.

“Just a quick email to let you all know about last night’s vote,” she wrote. “We had about a dozen Moms members in the chamber and two of us spoke.

“The council voted 6-1 to approve the resolution supporting I-594! Dave Ward’s was the lone dissenting vote. Bainbridge Island now officially joins Mercer Island in this important endorsement!”

Garcia quoted Mayor Anne Blair as saying, “Please extend my appreciation to the whole crew of folks who support this effort and encouraged, urged, pushed and cheered us on as we voted last night. Onward we go – now to get voters across the state to follow this pattern!” (more…)

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The Kitsap County Deputy Sheriffs Guild sent this press release out late yesterday:

The Kitsap County Deputy Sheriffs Guild hasn’t determined which candidate it will endorse in this year’s Kitsap County prosecutor’s race, but it has decided who it will not endorse — incumbent Russ Hauge. The Guild announced today, in a strongly worded statement, that while it was still assessing the other three candidates for the prosecutor seat, it had decided to officially oppose Hauge and encouraged the voters to consider one of the other three candidates in the August primary.

Guild President Jay Kent explained that the Guild took the unusual position of issuing an “anti-endorsement” because of its strong opposition to Hauge. “The prosecutor’s office is a mess” Kent said “and Hauge is responsible for that. We are not going to get the office’s problems fixed until he leaves the office.” Kent said the Guild wanted more time to assess the other three candidates — Bruce Danielson, Tina Robinson, and Bob Scales — but that it was “firmly set” against Hauge’s reelection. (more…)

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It’s July, and chances are you don’t know anything about the candidates listed on the primary ballot that came in the mail this week. You may not even know there’s a primary, but your ballot is due August 5.

Photo credit: Facebook page of Bob Scales for Prosecutor-D

Photo credit: Facebook page of Bob Scales for Prosecutor-D

It might be worth your time, though, to tune in to the small local drama playing out in the four-way primary contest for Kitsap County Prosecutor that illustrates why so many of us have a distaste for party politics.

Russ Hauge, a Democrat, is an 18-year incumbent who has drawn three challengers. The Kitsap Sun has called the number of opponents in the race an indication of “a critical mass of dissatisfaction with Hauge.”

Hauge has garnered detractors for a variety of deficits, including a reputed bad temper, his failure to fire a deputy prosecutor after two drunk driving arrests, and his expensive and largely unsuccessful fifteen-year crusade against the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club.

Tina Robinson, the Republican challenger, has limited legal and prosecutorial experience, and the Independent, Bruce Danielson is a far-right, self-described “constitutional fundamentalist” who has lost to Hauge before (though not by much).

Bob Scales, a Democrat and former Bainbridge council member who has spent his career in public safety, has shaken up the race as a same-party challenger to Hauge. As a result, the Hauge crowd has been playing hardball as the primary winds to a close. His supporters are particularly targeting Bainbridge Island because of our history as reliable primary voters who are mostly Democratic. The strategy depends on discrediting Scales, who has lived on Bainbridge for fifteen years, and has served the island during two terms on city council.

Scales is highly qualified. He was a King County deputy prosecutor for six years. He was a senior policy analyst for public safety for the City of Seattle, and worked on developing programs to enhance police accountability, firearm safety, drug enforcement tactics and treatment programs, and community engagement, to name just a few. He has been nationally recognized for his work on strategies for prosecuting juvenile firearm offenders.

Now that the ballots have dropped, Hauge’s campaign is showing the ugly side of politics: when your candidate’s qualifications and track record aren’t enough for the win, go for lies and propaganda.

One example is today’s letter to the editor in the Bainbridge Review and the Islander, signed by several precinct committee officers and board members of the 23rd Legislative District Democrats (signed as individuals, not as representatives of the 23rd).  (more…)

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Last August, we filed a Public Records Act lawsuit against the City of Bainbridge Island and certain individual councilpersons, after learning they had been conducting City business from their personal email accounts, and had failed to produce these records after receiving our public records request.

As we said in our press release at the time, “The last thing we want to do is sue the city….But the way the Public Records Act is written, we have to sue the city in order to require rogue officials to obey the law.”

We have tried to make clear throughout this litigation that our primary concern was not with individuals on the City’s staff, whom we had found to be cooperative and professional. It was unlawful activity by the councilpersons that troubled us, because they have consistently placed themselves above the law and have refused to turn over public records. Council members Dave Ward and Steven Bonkowski have admitted under oath that they deleted emails concerning City business, relying upon their own personal definition of what constitutes a public record, and without seeking advice from the City. In doing so, they ignored guidelines that were provided to them on multiple occasions.

In a 32-page decision issued May 29th, Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Jeannette Dalton agreed with us, finding that the councilpersons’ refusal to turn over the records was of “grave concern for the people of Bainbridge Island.” Judge Dalton found that the City failed to do an adequate search for the requested records as required by law, because even after the City knew the council members were conducting City business on their personal accounts, it did not make any effort to search those accounts. She ruled that the City violated the Public Records Act and ordered the City to pay our attorneys fees and sanctions for the violations.

(more…)

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